During two hearings in late August, the Maryland Public Service Commission unanimously voted to expand the capacity of the state’s community solar program as well as improve access for low- and moderate-income (LMI) customer participation in the state’s Community Solar Pilot Program. The Commission’s updates will allow community solar to power the equivalent of an additional 6,840 Maryland homes, annually.
“I applaud the work of my colleagues at the Commission to expand the community solar program and ensure everyone in Maryland has equal access to the environmental benefits and cost savings associated with solar energy,” said Delegate Luke Clippinger (Baltimore City). “Community solar is an integral part of Maryland’s clean energy future and has already produced major benefits for residents. We cannot achieve our climate and renewable energy goals without community solar, and this capacity increase and program improvements put us on track to a robust permanent program.”
Community solar projects are small-scale solar installations typically located on farms, brownfields and landfills, or large rooftops. The property owner can earn income by leasing space for the solar panels, and community members can choose to subscribe to the project, earning a credit on their energy bill for their portion of the power produced. Customer savings are guaranteed.
In addition to expanding community solar capacity, the Commission made community solar more accessible for LMI customers, making it easier for them to sign up for project participation and lower their energy bills.
“Community solar projects make it possible for everyone, especially for low-and moderate-income consumers, to benefit from renewable energy by bringing the clean energy economy to communities that have historically been left behind,” said Susan Miller, senior attorney for EarthJustice and counsel for the Low-and-Moderate Income Advocates in Maryland. “Maryland leaders and community solar advocates have been working to level the playing field and make solar energy available to all by bringing more equitable energy choices. We thank the Commission for their due diligence and continued commitment to serve these residents.”
Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program will help create capacity to meet the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards. The Clean Energy Jobs Act passed in 2019 requires half of Maryland’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030.
The Commission made changes to the annual pilot program that will spur greater economic development from community solar, including aligning program years five and six to get the delayed timeline back on track and create jobs and customer energy savings as quickly as possible, as well as allowing community solar projects to be built on clean-fill construction sites, transforming previously unusable industrial locations into clean solar energy generation sites.
“CHESSA applauds the Commission on their commitment to community solar and their willingness to act,” said Nicole Chiappa, acting executive director of Chesapeake Solar and Storage Association. “We are excited to see the build-up of this program as it continues to benefit Marylanders.”